Families mourn Waffle House shooting victims

Families mourn Waffle House shooting victims

April 24th, 2018 by Christine Hauser and Matthew Haag/New York Times News Service in Local Regional News

At about 3:20 a.m. Sunday, the four young adults found themselves in the same busy Waffle House outside Nashville. One was a talented musician and another worked at an appliance store. There was a college student who was about to graduate, and a longtime Waffle House employee.

Moments later, they were dead after a man armed with an AR-15 opened fire on the restaurant from outside and then made his way in. Police said Monday that they had arrested the gunman, Travis J. Reinking, 29, after a manhunt that spanned neighborhoods southeast of Nashville. Four people were also injured in the rampage.

Friends and relatives of the victims were still trying to make sense of the tragedy Monday. Here is a look at their lives.

Joe R. Perez, 20

Perez grew up in Buda, Texas, just outside of Austin. After graduating from Hays High School in 2016, he moved to Nashville to work with one of his two older brothers in an appliance store. His mother, Patricia, said that she had last spoken to him Saturday night.

"I told him to be careful because he was out late," she said. "And he said he would."

"And then a few hours later, he was gone," she said.

She had last seen her son, her youngest child, early this year. On the telephone that night, they spoke of Patricia Perez's upcoming trip to visit him in Nashville. He said he would see her Wednesday, when he planned to pick her up at the airport.

"And now I will never see him again," she said. "He was my baby."

DeEbony Groves, 21

Groves was a college senior who held two jobs, working shifts when she could step away from her classes and homework at Belmont University in Nashville. Despite her busy schedule, Groves always found time to visit her grandmother.

"Every chance she could get," her grandmother, Carolyn Groves, said in an interview.

The visits were usually spur of the moment. Groves would call her grandmother before lunchtime, say she wanted to spend the day with her and then head to her home in Portland, northeast of Nashville. She always brought food, either a sub sandwich to split or McDonald's.

"She was a sweetheart," her grandmother said.

Groves grew up in Gallatin, a Nashville suburb, and attended Gallatin High School. She made the Lady Green Wave varsity basketball team as a sophomore. She rarely led the team in scoring, but she was the squad's top defender and was often assigned to guard the opposing team's best player, her former coach, Kim Kendrick, told The Tennessean.

"She was a great role model for the other players," Kendrick said.

After she graduated from high school in 2014, Groves followed her brother to Belmont University, the liberal arts college whose campus is at the end of Music Row. She also joined the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and was eating with some of her sisters at the Waffle House on Sunday morning.

She first majored in nursing but later changed her focus to social work. Her grandmother said she loved to help people.

"The entire campus community is shocked and devastated by how such senseless violence has taken the life of this young woman, an individual full of immense potential," the school said in a statement.

She was set to graduate in two weeks.

Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29

Sanderlin, of Goodlettsville, Tenn., was a Waffle House employee.

The Tennessean reported that the customer who wrested the gun away, James Shaw Jr., overheard Sanderlin say he was going to take a break before heading outside. Sanderlin was shot and killed outside the restaurant, police said.

Walter G. Ehmer, chief executive of Waffle House, said Sanderlin had worked for the restaurant chain for about five years. The restaurant where the shooting took place had been open about five months.

A man reached by phone who identified himself as Sanderlin's brother declined to comment.

Akilah Dasilva, 23

Dasilva was a musician and videographer, creating and performing under the name Natrix Dream. He attended Middle Tennessee State University for two semesters, and was last enrolled in 2013, Jimmy Hart, a spokesman for the university, said. His proposed major was computer engineering technology, Hart said.

As a musician, Dasilva kept up an online archive of work as he produced it, sometimes in coordination with his brother, Abede. Dasilva was with his partner, Tia Waggoner, and his brother at the restaurant the night of the shooting, The Tennessean reported.

"Music is my life and I will never stop until I achieve my dreams," he wrote on his Twitter page.

Waggoner wrote on Facebook that they had been together for five years. She called Dasilva "the love of my life."

"The pain is unbearable," she wrote.